May 22, 2020
Mental Health Graphic
Innovations in mental health are long overdue and the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn have brought this into even sharper focus. The very nature of mental health services makes technological interventions difficult, but innovation in the field, being driven by the public health crisis created by the virus, is now necessary.

What research is laying the groundwork for innovation in the treatment of mental health? What technologies are changing the game in the current environment? What is the local expression of these innovations? And where can philanthropy play its role to help seed innovative solutions to this ubiquitous and complex human need?

On Thursday, May 21, The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia hosted its Innovation Breakfast Virtual Series: Hacking Mental Health, moderated by Tamika L. Tremaglio, Greater Washington Managing Principal, Deloitte. Panelist included: Dr. Alfiee M. Breland-Noble, an internationally recognized scientist, author, media personality and speaker, Dr. Christianne Esposito-Smythers, Professor of Psychology, George Mason University, Rick Leichtweis, Ph.D., Executive Director for Inova Kellar Center, Ravinderpal (Ravi) Singh, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Inova Kellar Center.

We learned the pandemic has caused a reconsideration of online delivery systems by all, including the providers, regulators of the profession, and insurance companies. What was first considered “necessary” could transform into “essential” modes of service delivery, especially given the existing service deserts so brilliantly and graphically displayed by the VMAP (Virginia Mental Health Access Program) project.

The use of virtual technology has opened a new frontier in mental health support and data collections, but not without challenges.

“With new technology you need early adopters when you have new products. You need to be able to adapt. It has something to do with learning and comfort level and the financial aspect of who’s going to pay for this software and for these platforms,” said Dr. Ravi Singh, MD, Inova Kellar Center.
The panel also addressed how innovations in mental health service delivery can and must break down barriers to access that have so plagued communities of color and minority populations in our country.

“When you look across the social-economic spectrum, if you are a person of color, in general you are less likely to have access to good quality care,” said Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, Founder and Board President, The Aakoma Project, Inc.

Recent events have reminded us that in the midst of so many health and economic fallouts of the pandemic, the opportunity to “build back better” beckons.

“This is the beginning, not the end, of the Community Foundation’s continuing focus on mental health, and philanthropy’s role in seeding innovative solutions to this ubiquitous, complex human need,” said Eileen Ellsworth, President and CEO at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

The event was recorded and is available for viewing below.
A copy of the slides shared at this event are available here. In addition, please refer to our event program, attached, which includes a list of organizations providing mental health resources throughout our Northern Virginia service area.
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